Thursday, 28 July 2011

Anne Boleyn Review

Anne Boleyn
by Howard Brenton
Shakespeare’s Globe SE1 

The Courtly Lives of Others 

On Newsnight the other day a former Labour minister regaled us with the theory that the ‘welfare state’ should become the ‘protection state’. Well, this play by Howard Brenton, ostensibly chronicling the life of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII,  gives us rather sex and money in the 16th and 17th  protection racket state.  Despite its eponymous title, TLT and her stalwart motorised steed felt there were times in the uniformly well-acted first half where the role of Anne in the play seemed like an afterthought tacked on, diluting a much more male and, dare TLT say it, interesting play on the court, religion and politics. The collage feel of the first act, which structurally does a naked steal from Shaw’s St Joan, nevertheless gives way to a much more integrated and feeling second act.  Anne reaches tragic dimensions as one figure on a bloody tapestry of expediency stretching from Henry VIII’s breach with Papal Catholicism to King James I’s initiation of an English translation of the Bible. The second half achieves a complexity and depth where professions of acting for the public good translate the past into the recognizably worst excesses of modern statehood and politics. So no surprise at the end to discover even the foundation of the translation of the King James Authorized Version Bible, given to others to author, turns out to have been a  version filched from an earlier writer and Protestant pioneer, and then twisted for political ends.  An amber stroke green light for a lively and eventually engrossing play and production.  

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